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thursday
april 20
NOW 25th anniversary celebration The oldest and biggest NOW chapter in Texas, the Houston Area NOW chapter, is having a party with coffee and cake and entertainment. The entertainment will be a video, One Fine Day, and possibly state Representative Debra Danburg and state Senator Rodney Ellis. Danburg and Ellis will come to the party and speak on the topic "How To Be More than a Spectator in Texas Politics" -- assuming, that is, the legislature adjourns in time and they can get to Houston from Austin for the soiree. According to chapter president Deborah Bell, the Lone Star State chapter is devoted to bringing "women into full participation in society, exercising the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as men" and mobilizing voters for the 1996 elections. This feminist confab seems to be a businesslike affair with, apparently, no mucking about with wheat-grass juice or moon worship. 6:30 p.m. Houston Metropolitan Ministries Building, 3217 Montrose (at Lovett). For details, call 664-6955.

Breathless Margie Rose Walker, author of Love Signals and A Sweet Refrain, will read from her new book, Breathless, and talk about why her idea of taking charge of her life was to quit a perfectly good job and start writing romance novels. She'll also talk about writing romance and suspense novels with African-American heroines. 7:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble, 3003 West Holcombe, Vanderbilt Square, 349-0050.

Jazz message Bobby Watson will lead a sax workshop in the afternoon and then perform in Texas City. Watson became something of a star a decade ago as part of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He quit that group, formed a couple of his own (his current quintet Horizon and a 17-piece big band), made records and composed a film score. Now, the alto saxophonist stops on the coast for a guest-artist gig. Concert 8 p.m. College of the Mainland, Fine Arts Recital Hall, 1200 Amburn Rd., Texas City, (409) 938-1211 or 280-3991, then press 5. $4.

friday
april 21
Night at Six Flags AstroWorld It's gimp night at the park. That's right, gimp -- one of the current trends among the disabled is to call themselves gimps. The notion is to take a pejorative and make it positive -- like homosexuals calling themselves queer or older single women using the term spinster. So, anyway, some people like to play around with the word gimp. So you don't. Lighten up. Most of the time it just doesn't matter. When you're out with your friends, you use their name, not a label. Tonight, former patients of the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, their families, and caregivers will converge on the park. Volunteers from TIRR will also be around to advise people about the "more challenging rides" (a service we could all use) and also assist people getting on and off of roller coaster cars and so forth. 6 p.m.-midnight. AstroWorld, Kirby at Loop 610, 799-1234. For more information about this and similar programs, call TIRR, 528-0123.

Liar's Contest Late-night cable surfers have probably seen the highlights of last year's contest --the story of the water-skiing spider or the peppy blond woman talking about how she and her friends saved the country by thwarting a U-boat invasion in Amarillo Bay. The Greater Houston Area Liar's Contest is held every year at tax time, and the winner will be presented with a, um, huge, solid gold, diamond-encrusted chalice from the court of Abbe de Vallemont. Yeah, that's the ticket. And this relic is worth $256,000 and said to be cursed. Yeah. The contest is judged by experts from our town, including a pastor and a shyster lawyer. 7:30 p.m. Palmer Episcopal Church, 6221 Main. To reserve seats, call 492-8864. $5 advance, $7 at the door.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress Five women wearing the same tacky, stupid, expensive bridesmaid dresses that they will never ever be able to wear again, ever, in their whole lives and all for some skank woman they don't even like very much. That's the set-up in Alan Ball's theatrical production, presented by Gypsy Theatre Company and directed by Charlene Hudgins. Houston City Councilmember Gracie Saenz, who probably has a couple of ruffled taffeta numbers stuffed in the back of her closet, will be on hand for the opening night reception. Opening 8 p.m. tonight with reception following. Through June 3. Houston Skyline Theater, Houston House, 1617 Fannin, ninth floor of Houston House, 759-0701. $10.

Sadko Russian Folk Orchestra and Ballet Company Dancers in colorful costumes will spin and fly to their own ethnic music. The balalaika, dombra, accordion and Slavic wind instruments are part of the orchestra. This is the first-ever American tour for the company. Those who have traveled in the former Soviet Union may know the group as "Folk Group at Uzkoye." 8 p.m. Tonight, Saturday and Sunday. Jones Hall, 600 Louisiana. For tickets, call 629-3700. $8-$40.

saturday
april 22
Free tennis lessons As spring bears down on Houston, many citizens contemplate ways of shedding their winter blubber. Tennis is as good a way as any, and today actual tennis instructors offer free, 90-minute group lessons all over the city. For reservations to be part of the free lesson program, call the Southwest Tennis Center, 772-0296, or the Westside Tennis Club, 783-1620. Try to call before the end of the business day Friday. Rain date for lessons is Sunday, April 23.

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